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HBO is currently airing a superlative show about the serendipity and possibility of life, and the unexpected discoveries that can emerge through conversation and openness. That show, “How to With John Wilson,” finds a new timeslot partner, and a seeming companion piece, in “Chillin Island,” a series that uses unpolished chats between its hosts and guest stars to attempt to draw out grander revelations.

But where “How to” is scrappy, beginning with humble ambitions and arriving at startling conclusions, “Chillin Island,” whose executive producers include director Josh Safdie, is self-consciously grandiose. New Yorkers Alec “Despot” Reinstein, Ashok “Dap” Kondabolu, and Aleksey “Lakutis” Weintraub travel to natural settings (deserts, swamps, the open ocean) with recording artists with the stated mission of uncovering truths about humanity through discussion. What they arrive at is often a faux-profundity that rankles and irritates more than it could possibly enlighten.

Part of this is the inevitable conclusion of a show that can feel heavy-handed and semi-staged. Situations, like a dune buggy crash from which the rapper Young Thug is depicted as rescuing our central trio or a runner about a mythical Yeti in the swampland, can feel contrived. And the insights drawn from the guests often feel unworth the time the viewer’s being asked to invest. A conversation about whether Big Bird was one person or multiple people inside a single bird suit is at least lighthearted. The rapper Lil Yachty passionately detailing how humanity’s ills all come down to overpopulation, the result of medicines that he says should not be available to us, has the boring feeling of being trapped with a conversationalist who’s both ill-informed and, worse, uninterestingly so. “Chillin Island” may satisfy hardcore fans of its central personalities; newcomers curious about just what they get out of their high-profile guests will likely be badly disappointed.

“Chillin Island” debuts Friday, Dec. 17, at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.

HBO’s ‘Chillin Island’ Features Beautiful Settings and Boring Conversations: TV Review

HBO. Six episodes (three screened for review).

  • Production: Executive Producers: Alec Reinstein, Sebastian Bear-McClard, Josh Safdie, Oscar Boyson, Adel 'Future the Prince' Nur, Jason Shrier, Anthony Gonzales, Dawn Ostroff, Courtney William Holt, and Liz Gateley.
  • Crew:
  • Cast: Alec “Despot” Reinstein, Ashok “Dap” Kondabolu and Aleksey “Lakutis” Weintraub
  • Music By: E.VAX